After last year’s Moonrise Kingdom, I wasn’t sure if Wes Anderson could top, or even equal, himself with his next movie. He has. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a shaggy dog story, or in this case, a shaggy hotel story, set in a fictitious European country between the two world wars and into the years of communism.
The main attraction at the The Grand Budapest Hotel is the flamboyant concierge Gustave H., masterfully played by Ralph Fiennes. He knows he’s in charge of everything, calls everyone “darling,” even the police, and gives new meaning to the term “room service.” Many of the elderly ladies who repeatedly visit the hotel do so because of Gustave.
In telling the history of the hotel… including who owned it, who now owns it, how that person happened to end up the owner, who else was important in the hotel’s history…there are multiple layers of not only story arcs, but a revolving cast of quirky characters, with some very familiar faces showing up for no more than a couple of minutes. To reveal any of the intricacies of the plot is to do you a great disservice. This is not a film where you need to put all the pieces together and keep track of who’s doing what to whom. It’s one of those tales that needs to be experienced and enjoyed as one serious scene moves to one absurd scene, and then on again to something completely different. If I were to sum up The Grand Budapest Hotel in one sentence, I would say it’s in the style of a classic European art film as made by the entire staff at Mad Magazine. If it had been made in the sixties, it might have starred Peter Sellers running amok in five or six roles.
As it is, you’re treated to the cast of a lifetime. In addition to Ralph Fiennes, newcomer Tony Revolori as his trainee and protégée is funny, deadpan, and just spot on delightful. The known names and faces include Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, looking much like his character from the brilliant Streets of Fire, Adrian Brody, F. Murray Abraham, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, and… well, I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
There are scenes that are side-splittingly funny; scenes that are serious or beautiful or both; and, as in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a sense of style and design that is a wonder to behold. Once all the dots…and characters… are connected, you will also know the history of The Grand Budapest Hotel, and hopefully will want to run out and tell everyone you know to go see it.
I’ve been trying to catch up on films from year’s end that I had missed, and in doing so will freely admit my disappointment with both Frozen and American Hustle. However, it only takes one The Grand Budapest Hotel to erase those disappointments and confirm that yes, there is still creativity abounding in film making, as long as you seek it out. And in anticipation of whatever it may be I am now on the edge of my seat waiting for the next film from Wes Anderson.
The R-rated The Grand Budapest Hotel is now showing at the Esquire, Kenwood, AMC Newport on the Levee, Cinemark Oakley Station, Springdale Cinema DeLuxe, and AMC West Chester.